Continuing the â€˜Creeks and Rivers of Silicon Valleyâ€™ year long quest.
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The largest homeless camp in the United States is right in the heart of affluent Silicon Valley*. Situated just south and less than a mile away of downtown San Jose, there are up to 350 residents living in â€œThe Jungleâ€, as it is locally called. Just a few yards away, across Story Road, is the beloved kiddie amusement park and zoo, Happy Hollow, and is one long block from the city’s municipal ballpark and San Jose State University’s stadium. The Japanese Friendship garden painted in TwentySeven: Koraken is less than a block away.
The Jungle in essence is a city for the homeless on the banks of Coyote Creek. (Coyote Creek was previously painted in this quest at other stretches in Eleven: Christmas Day, Twelve: With the Los Gatos Elves, and ThirtySix: El Toro.) Driving by on Story Road, you would never notice the despair below under the trees as cars, buses, and minivans of families head to Happy Hollow Park and Zoo.
Most of the residents are San Jose locals. Snaking trails wind through trees and bushes, with Spanish-speaking sections and neighborhoods like Little Saigon, where Vietnamese residents have dug large rooms into steep hillsides. There are makeshift shelters, tents, hand-dug latrines, tree houses, piles of human waste, cast-off clothing, lots of shopping carts, car parts, and discarded food rots. There are cats and kittens, dogs large and small, chickens, ducks, even a bunny. There is a large drug culture in parts of the camp.
There are numerous other camps all over Santa Clara County, some at times get cleared and cleaned out, but The Jungle is entrenched. Santa Clara County has the dubious honor of having the fifth-highest homeless population in the nation. A report, released by the city of San Jose, found 7,361 homeless individuals around the county with 4,770 people identified in San Jose.
Here are some of my personal photos of The Jungle, albeit mainly around the perimeter–
Click on a thumbnail to open up a larger picture and slide show***
To see more inside and closeup click this link, for some better photos right in The Jungle. It is startling.
Painting The Jungle has been on my list almost from the beginning of this quest. Besides showing the beauty of the creeks in Santa Clara Valley, I wanted to show some of the grit along the waterways. I have reconnoitered the area several times, but never actually gone in. While doing research, a knowledgable friend strongly advised me not to go into it and do a painting by the creek. The area is lawless and not safe, including a lot of drug trafficking. Although groups of aid and other workers visit, I didnâ€™t really want to bother anyone to form a posse of bodyguards, so put on my scraggiest clothes (actually my normal plein air garb) and walked around parts of the perimeter and in a little ways to get a feel for the place, take pictures, and color notes, etc.
I spent as much as I could on-site gathering information, but this painting is not plein air, and is the first, and hopefully only non-plein air painting in this quest. I would have liked to paint right on the creek, and wanted to include it in my quest, so painted it alla prima (all at once) in my normal plein air style in the studio.
*Considered by most as the largest, but the population varies.
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